January 20, 2019

On Dealing with Darkness: A Message from Rabbi Mel Gottlieb

Today is a day of overwhelming tragedy and destruction. We are overwhelmed by the random, premeditated terror and murder in the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, the loss of precious lives in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the destruction and murder in churches, mosques and classrooms, these past weeks and months …and now by the onslaught of raging fires all along the coast and valley! Our hearts are filled with sadness and also an outpouring of love to all who are suffering at this moment. We have students and relatives who are living in the area of the fires and we are thinking of them and praying for them that they  will get through this unharmed.
This wave of terror, unfortunately, creates a state of vulnerability and fear. We are constantly reminded  of the culture of hatred, and fear that festers in our country endangering us all.  At times we feel powerless as to what to do, yet we must not let this feeling obviate our ability to bring healing and justice and love  wherever, and however we can. Things must change, and we must come together to pray, to act and to address the plagues that attack us. We must strengthen each other individually, and come together in strength as a community to support the work of healing and good deeds to all who suffer and to work together to create a world that is secure, thriving, and one in which the highest values of our tradition is palpable and alive as a guide to our lives.
In the face of natural disaster we are called to aid those in pain and those in need, to help them rebuild their lives. We are taught by our Sages, that our first response is to engage in mourning and self-reflection. Then we are to engage in the process of thinking about root causes, the process of healing  and emerge with resolve, faith, resiliency to overcome this dire time of trial. Each victim of tragedy devastates us. Each individual tragedy ripples outward affecting all of us. There is not a single one of us who is not affected by this mass onslaught from individuals and from nature itself.
But as this week’s Parsha instructs us, Yitzchak whose life was filled with tragedy, had the strength and resiliency to re-dig the wells of water that his father Abraham dug before him, which were stopped up by the Philistines. Through his courage in the face of intense trauma he found living water once more, as our people throughout history have done when tragedy and obstacles stood in their way. They rebuilt, and maintained holiness and dignity with the faith that there is something beyond this temporary scourge, something deeper and eternal and it is up to us to discover this Life Force, and live out its power with the recognition that Grace, and individual deeds of kindness, are the antidote, the elixir to the forces of evil that raise their heads at this time.
May each of us reach out to someone in need this very day, may the Shabbat Light lift our spirits and guide us through the rest of the week, may each and everyone of you find safety, peace and love and we say Amen.